House sit #1 :Galena, Illinois. 

   
    
 
And what a beautiful house-and-dog-sit it was!!  Holly, is 8 years old and the BEST trained, nicest- natured dog that I have ever looked after! ( sorry to all the owners of  the other dogs I’ve looked after!) The house was very cool, too! Built in 1826, it has been restored by the current owners SO well and in such a historically accurate way that they won an award from the county history board in 2010. 

Not only was the house and dog wonderful, so was the town and district of Galena. An extremely picturesque town with a very long Main Street just packed with places to eat, drink and spend money! In fact, 1,500,000 tourists do that in Galena each year! As well as picturesque, Galena has an interesting history with connections to a US president and several Generals from the Civil War. 

Tucked in the North -West corner of the state of Illinois, Galena is in a rare pocket of hills and twisty roads. Most of Illinois is flat, arable land, put to use in the growing of corn, soya beans and cattle. So Galena has the extra novelty of hilly countryside also. 

Galena is also very close to the Mississippi River and is only a few miles (remember that old measurement??) from the state borders of Iowa and Wisconsin. Hence a wonderful place to explore! Add to that, the owners of both dog and home gave me the use of one of their vehicles ( called Holly’s Van) for the length of my house sit, so how privileged was I?

    
I decided not to abuse their kindness and to drive 100s of miles afield, but that still left me many options for closer exploration. I drove into Wisconsin and said a quick hello to the first small town I came to, Hazel Green, then another day I ventured into Iowa, to Dubuque, just across the Mississippi. 

Holly and I had a lovely couple of hours walking along the river’s edge at the beautifully upgraded Port of Dubuque. It was easy to imagine it in its heyday with paddle steamers in great quantity docking and departing. 

   
    
    
 
 

Apart from these 2 excursions, I kept my exploration fairly local. Apart from the picturesque Main Street of Galena, the more mundane  (but useful) parts spread for a few miles along Route 20 in either direction from my house. I drove up and down this stretch at least once a day…in search of a supermarket, post office, bank, church, Walmart, and a cheapish place to eat called Calvers. My first few trips were quite tentative, but thankfully, it didn’t take too long to feel more comfortable driving on the other side of the road! I made sure I was always concentrating because I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to turn onto the wrong side of the road! 

  The supermarket that I found!
   
 Drive through ATM…only in the USA!  

    
    
    
    
    
    
S

 

 

   
   
The above photos show you a selection of my daily activities. As usual, I sourced a place that made excellent coffee, called “Devour”. Another favourite little cafe for food was called “Otto’s place”, a delightful spot! 

One thing that really fascinated me was the town’s flood gates. After the Galena river flooding the town too frequently for comfort, an engineer came up with a great idea of building a huge protective levee along the river, in conjunction with the flood gates. They have saved the town from flooding many a time since, as late as 2011. The top of the levee boasts an excellent walking trail, when it’s not flooded!! 

    
 
I could go on and on about Galena…..it’s hard not to! I haven’t mentioned its history, its connection to General Grant and the civil war, its thriving River port prior to the invention of trains, the local Brewery that my home owners owned and the Halloween parade that was in its 37th year this year, but I will leave you with a few photos from aforementioned Halloween parade! Thousands turn out , from miles around, to see it!!

   
    
    
    
    
 
Oh, and how could I forget……the home owners’ son in law grew this pumpkin! But it’s only his 2nd biggest!!! He’s hoping to take out a few prizes with them!! 

 

The Chicago Public Library.

   
    
 
One day, earlier this year, I borrowed an amazing book of photographs and text about American libraries. In it were photos of large libraries, small ones, busy libraries and defunct libraries all across the US of A. It was a great read for a person like me! I wrote notes of the names of all the ones I wanted to see…quite a long list, I might say! Since then, my schedule was organized and I’ve had to cross out a lot of the names because I won’t be going near some of the places, BUT, that’s still left me with quite a few to visit! 

The first one was the Seattle public library…but due to needing a day off to rest and a forgetful-jet lagged brain, I never got to it! We did, however pass it 4 times on buses, so I did see the outside at least!

Determined to do better, I used my last day in Chicago ( the family had gone) to visit the next library on the list! I wasn’t disappointed! 

The Chicago public library system has many branches all around the city and suburbs( one was near to us in Pilsen, where we stayed) but I went to visit the main one, the daddy of them all….the Harold Washington library. 

  
As you may have guessed from the photos, the library is huge! I found it difficult to get it all in one shot! 

But then you go inside……

   
 
It looks a bit like a foyer to a very flash hotel! But no, it was a library! I talked to the very helpful front desk ladies and they gave me a map to help me find my way around…all 10 floors of the place! 

   
 
As you can see, there’s a floor for EACH DEPARTMENT!  Awesome. On the first ( ground) floor there’s a regular sort of borrowing library so you can be in and out without bothering about the rest of the building! But, as I explored each floor, I fell more and more in love with this place. They have what every library has, but just on a much larger scale. 

   
 
The children’s library was really good…I didn’t like to invade people’s privacy so didn’t photograph much of it. On leaving, I complimented the librarians on their fine children’s collection and they smiled, and upon learning where I was from they said ” from an Australian, with your excellent libraries, that’s awesome praise!”

Next, I spied an interesting sign:

  
So down I went to the appropriate theatre ( lower ground) and had a wonderful 45 minute free concert!  

 
Then I gradually ascended the escalators ( they actually have the same name as in Oz!) and explored floor after glorious floor!  

    
    
 
And then , the grand finale! The Wintergarden! Which actually spans 2 floors so it’s a huge space! Around the sides were 2 floors of administration offices and meeting rooms. But what a beautiful space!  

    
    
 
The only thing missing was a cafe! But they would’ve had horrible coffee so maybe that was just as well! Many people were up here eating lunch, studying, using their laptops or even reading!!!! What a wonderful place. What a wonderful library. If you didn’t read the small print on the photos, this is the largest library in the States!!

I finally dragged myself out of there and then went and did a few more regular touristy things! Walked around Millennium park, saw the cool and huge playground that was nearby and walked till I could actually see Lake Michigan, which looked as big as an ocean! But if you want more details on these I suggest you read the family’s  blog: Upupandmackay.wordpress.com , I know they’ll have their Chicago blog on soon! 

Just 1 last thing….as I walked down the steps from Art Institute of Chicago, I noticed this sign…. 

   
So I did what the sign said, and I did get a very amusing phone call from the North Lion, explaining his history and paying out the South Lion a little! Later on, I saw this sign, too…. 

 
I could have wandered the streets of Chicago getting commentaries from the points of interest! What a cool idea! Sadly, I was exhausted from my big day out, so I caught the El back to Pilsen, and went to bed!  

Stay tuned for my next amazing library adventure!!!

Fall in Colorado Springs. 

  
I had a wonderful week in the very welcoming home of my friends in Colorado Springs. I visited them 7 years ago when they had just moved to Colorado Springs and the children were very small. We all had variations of gastro ( and altitude sickness for me) that time and didn’t venture out much! 

This visit was quite different! The children are now articulate, well read, kind and entertaining young people, with an interest in many things! A kindly gave up his bed for me and both he and St were very patient in answering my many questions! They also taught me some new card games! ( one involving doughnuts!!)

S and J are now firmly settled into their neighborhood, their church and their lives in Colorado Springs in general. The children go to a wonderful elementary school and are learning local history, amongst many other things. 

I had a wonderful week joining in with their lives;visiting their school, ( including their classrooms, and their playground) their church, the local Costco , a bookshop ( where A and I had fun browsing for a whole hour and he spent his book token) and visiting some special local sights. I even managed to score a school musical about the history of the state of Colorado! St’s year level put on a mighty show, with lots of singing. Awesome!   

    
   
One day, S and I went to visit a local castle(!?) built by a man who made his money by building railways! It was set in the most wonderful surrounds, with majestic mountains nearby and completely hidden from the road. Glen Eyrie was well worth a visit and a tour. Next time I’d like to book in for a luxurious night there! 

   
    
    
Another awesome outing was going to see a marionette show in a tiny theatre in Old Colorado. This particular show was a ‘medley’ of Aesop’s tales beautifully woven together to form a very entertaining story. The marionettes were all made by the 1 man and he worked them, did the voices, everything! S, the children and I all thoroughly enjoyed it! ( Poor J had to work!)

Because I needed to drive a car during my house sit, J very kindly ( and bravely) volunteered to take me to a shopping mall car park, before the crowds arrived, and let me practice driving on the other side of the road! After many circuits of the carpark, J took a huge risk and let me drive home! Nerve racking but sooo useful! 

I also relished all the church activities I could join in with during the week. S and I went to a ladies bible study, attended a school mum’s prayer group, and J & S host a home group at their home so I could join in with that too! Of course, I also attended their Sunday service and Sunday School with them all. I love this part of my travelling..meeting other parts of God’s  family  in other parts of the world. To top it all off, on the way to church on the Sunday, this was the view of His mighty creation. How awesome is that! 

   
 
Talking of awesome scenery, we also took a drive through the Garden of the Gods on the Saturday, along with many other carloads of people! We also stopped for a walk to view some of the rocks close up! 

It was stunning, breath taking and amazing! My paltry photos will not do it justice, but here goes…

   
    
    
    
    
 
What a wonderful week I had with them and I can’t thank them enough for their warmth, hospitality, great food and lovely company. 

In search of a decent coffee……

Ok, I know on a world scale , or a heavenly one for that matter, coffee isn’t really that important!  Whether I find a drinkable cup of coffee in the USA isn’t going to concern many people, but, nevertheless, it is a background aspect of every day for me on this glorious grand tour. 

As most people know, America seems to run on coffee….often we see the sight of people clutching their take-away coffee cups, or thermos cups from home, and Americano style coffee is available cheaply almost everywhere! This coffee is the drip through/ percolated sort, that is mostly drunk black, or with cream or half and half. 

I only drink one cup of coffee a day  (mostly) and I like that to be espresso style; what most of we Australians call coffee! 

Out of desperation I’ve tried American style, but alas! It did not please! ( I know, I know, this definitely IS a first world problem). 

Anyway, I have found some along the way……

  
In a cafe in Vancouver, ( called Moii), the latte was wonderful! Oops….how did that crepe get there? ( it had banana in it so it was healthy!) 

  
I scored a wonderful latte( nothing called a flat white) at a terrific cafe near the markets. I escaped here a couple of days when my energy flagged behind that of my family! What a great way to recover! 

  Today, in Chicago, I scored another beauty in a shop that I thought only sold pie! What frabjous joy! It was good! And so was the pie!   

I would just like to add that these 4 slices were shared between 6 of us! And don’t think, but 3 were only children…..they had their fair share too! 
So, to end my short  tale of  the quest for a good coffee……please do not worry that you will be constantly updated on my coffees: -good or bad, I’m only dribbling on about it this once!! ( did I hear a collective “phew”?) 😁

The day we went to Squamish!

Vancouver, British Columbia, is a beautiful city, and the suburb we were staying in did nothing but confirm that! Our basement apartment was comfortable, roomy and was in walking distance to many shops, a train station, restaurants and cafes and the impressive City Hall.

  
   In my usual style, I had a quiet day where I didn’t join the family on their outing, but pottered around at ‘home’ and went for a walk locally. On my walk, Lo and behold! …….a coffee shop that made real coffee! And it was almost named after me! The coffee was great!

 The next day , I did join the family on a beautiful drive north from Vancouver, supposedly to Whistler, but we didn’t make it that far! The scenery was beautiful! We drove along the side of a Fjord and stopped for breaks at a few places along the way. Trees, mountains, a waterfall, expanses of water, green grass……along with a sunny day……..made for a very scenic drive!

  
  
  
   Our next stop was the ‘Sea to Mountain’ gondala ride, just before Squamish. We quickly rose to the top of the local mountain, with awe inspiring views along the way. We explored some of the nature trails on the mountain , plus crossed a long and high suspension bridge. We even found a sand box for the children to play in, before our scenic descent to the carpark.
  
  
 Whilst this was just a mere glimpse of the scenic country called Canada, I was pleased to have had this delightful preview! It only confirmed to me what I already suspected…..Canada needs further exploration……one day!

The very long Tuesday!

There are things about air travel that I forget between trips! In this case it’s how 1 day can go on for sooooo long when you cross the dateline in an easterly direction. ( I think I have that right?!)

I was woken up with buns and tea at the beginning of  Tuesday 13th October, in HK. We then made our way with all of our luggage to the main railway station where we checked in our luggage for the plane! ( v cool idea! )

After the Peak Tram, a walk or 2 , lunch in a sandwich shop, more walking, another train, we arrived at the airport, ready to board our 4:20 pm plane to Vancouver! 

We boarded, ate dinner, then I watched a little tv ( NCIS, New Orleans, please note, Pat!) before having a great sleep for 6 or more hours. ( How blessed was I ….3 seats to myself so I could lay down!) then we woke up and were served breakfast , still on Tuesday Oct 13th!!

So we landed in Vancouver, caught a train or 2, picked up our Zipcar cards, ate delicious cookies (!), had a passable coffee, walked a short distance, arrived at our awesome basement accommodation and it was still only early afternoon on….Tuesday! 

We walked to a nearby Chinese noodle shop( where they make their own noodles), had a sumptuous dinner (meal no 5), then walked home ( I. and I accidentally took the long route) to almost literally fall into bed……..the end of our very long Tuesday!! Phew!!

   
    
 

How to enjoy Hong Kong without really trying! 


 I experienced a new type of travelling whilst in Hong Kong with the family. (…… just digressing for a moment….when I say “the Family” I mean L, S, I , E & R……sadly P is not with us! So not my whole family, but 5 members there of!)

So what was this new type of travelling?  I just had to “be”, no thinking or planning needed!! I just had to hold 1 slightly sweaty little hand and ensure the 2 of us kept up with Daddy!

Daddy knew what we should eat, and where we should find it, what mode of transport to catch and where it would take us AND knocked on the door each morning to announce tea and buns were bought and ready for breakfast!

I think we rode:

  • 2 types of trains
  • A double decker tram
  • The star ferry
  • An extremely scenic cable car
  • 2 buses
  • A funicular called the Peak Tram

Plus we walked along very crowded streets, through a little fishing village with homes built on stilts,  in light and airy shopping malls, and in the beautiful Hong Kong city park: by day and by night!!

It was fascinating, interesting, and  exhausting! ( not just for me!)

And the food was….delicious and in most cases …..pretty authentic Hong Kong Chinese food. ( maybe not the club sandwich and the gelato though!)

Was a great couple of days, and I’m thankful for that because I’m pretty sure on the way home in January I will be sleeping off jet lag not sightseeing!!

Day 1: Hong Kong

Just a quick entry, mainly to say we made it! A very long day, starting at 3:30 am, Adelaide time! The flight went very smoothly and the grandchildren were excellent fliers! Now we’re about to go out for a quick meal and then it’s ……bed!!


Here we are again! 

 The bags are packed, farewells said, and now it’s time for bed!!!

What a busy day it has been!

  • Finished up at a housesit
  • Finished packing
  • Coffee with a dear friend
  • Aussie BBQ at Pat’s for Mackay family lunch
  • Dropped off last of my library items(!!)
  • Watered pot plants and fed magpies for an absent friend
  • Drove Campervan to its resting spot for next few months
  • Ate early dinner
  • Bedtime!!

We’re up at 4 am tomorrow, to catch our 7:25 am plane to Hong Kong. Yay!

As usual, I have been a negligent blogger whilst in Oz but hopefully I’ll lift my game whilst away!

Thank you for travelling, in anticipation, with me!